Does space flight inspire school students?

Posted on 28 January 2015

Science Education researchers at York with The Sky at Night presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock will focus on British astronaut Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station in November.


International Space Station (credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Flickr)

The £348,000 three-year research project, funded by the UK Space Agency and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), aims to investigate if human spaceflight inspires school students to take science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

Tim Peake is the first British member of the European Space Agency’s astronaut corps, and he will become the first Briton to visit the ISS.  As well as delivering invaluable scientific research and cutting edge technology, it is hoped that the programme will boost participation and interest in STEM subjects among school children.

The research will involve gathering views from pupils and teachers from a sample of 30 primary and 30 secondary schools. In addition, perspectives will be gained from space scientists on areas of the industry that may influence students. Participants will be asked their advice on space science resources for use with school students, leading to the production of an overview of space science resources. The study, starting in January 2015, will also involve the design of a new instrument to assess school students’ attitudes to STEM subjects and to space science.

Principal Investigator Professor Judith Bennett, from the Department of Education at the University of York, said: “There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that space and space travel increase the interest of young people in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. We have a golden opportunity to gauge this hypothesis as we prepare to send a British astronaut into space at the end of next year.”